NORTH ANDOVER – If you’ve ever wondered what the inside of the Central Fire Station on Main Street looks like, you’ll have your chance Saturday morning.
The fire department will host an open house from 9 a.m. to noon. This is being done as part of Fire Prevention Week, according to Lt. William McCarthy, education officer for the department.
Firefighters will give tours of the station and guests will have the opportunity to visit the fire safety house, which can be filled with artificial smoke and enable people to do close-to-real-life fire drills. The fire safety house was a very popular feature Aug. 7, when the police and fire departments organized the National Night Out Against Crime at North Andover Middle School.
McCarthy said he expects firefighters will demonstrate the Jaws of Life, the tool they use to extricate victims from mangled vehicles. Residents will also have ample opportunity to learn how they can protect their families and homes from fires, he said.
Coloring books will be offered to children and refreshments will be available for all.
“It’s good for families,” McCarthy said of the open house. Fire Chief Andrew Melnikas said Saturday’s event should be an ideal chance for residents to meet the firefighters who protect them.
The open house will also be educational, the chief added.
“They do a great job,” Melnikas said, referring to the department’s education officer and his cousin, Lt. Fred McCarthy, the fire prevention officer.
National Fire Prevention Week officially starts Sunday and will run through Oct. 13. Besides promoting measures to prevent fires, the observance commemorates the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
That conflagration killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 people homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures and burned more than 2,000 acres. The fire began Oct. 8, but continued into and did most of its damage the following day.
According to popular legend, the fire broke out after a cow belonging to Catherine O’Leary kicked over a lamp, setting first the barn, then the whole city on fire. Recent research has helped to debunk this story, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
While the Great Chicago Fire gained a great deal of notoriety, a huge forest fire that broke out in northeastern Wisconsin the same day claimed many more lives, McCarthy pointed out. The Peshtigo Fire destroyed 16 towns, killed 1,152 people and burned 1.2 million acres, according to the National Fire Protection Association.